The Bizarre Job of Being a Rent-a-Foreigner in China

Foreigners are being rented out in Mainland China for varying “roles” to help flagging real estate developments boost sales, and it’s an odd sight. Watch the above video and you’ll see what I mean.

Needless to say though, it’s been done for a reason, and like most things in the modern world, it’s about money.

“Once you put a foreigner out there, everything changes. It is no longer some remote building built by an unknown developer. It becomes an international city of the future,” says a Chinese talent agent in the video.

Over-investment in the real estate market has resulted in there being a huge oversupply of developments in China. (Screenshot/YouTube)

Overinvestment in the real estate market has resulted in there being a huge oversupply of developments in China. (Screenshot/YouTube)

As far as prices go, when hiring a foreigner to promote a building development, a white person is more expensive than hiring a black person or an Indian.

While these comments have struck a chord on social media channels because of perceived racism, the reality is there’s no such thing as political correctness in China, or pretty much elsewhere in Asia for that matter. That’s just how it is.

Some of the foreigners who featured in the above video about how China’s real estate industry rents foreigners to promote their property developments. (Screenshot/YouTube)

Some of the foreigners who featured in the above video about how China’s real estate industry rents foreigners to promote their property developments. (Screenshot/YouTube)

Obviously, it’s all about image, and clearly there’s some pretty big gaps in honesty, with instances of foreigners being touted as a top American model or an important businessmen when they’re just a backpacker. As one of these “actors” states: “Yes, everything is fake.”

“The operation usually works by recruiting a few of the thousands of ordinary expatriates in China, and paying them to play whatever role the client feels will best convey its building’s desirability,” wrote the film’s director, David Borenstein, for The New York Times.

“Musicians and models—often amateurs billed as “famous”—are the most popular personas. But while making this video, we also encountered Westerners posing as businessmen, athletes, diplomats, and some simply as city residents,” he wrote.

Borenstein is releasing Chinese Dreamland, a longer documentary about the same subject, next year. See its trailer below:

Even knowing this trailer is only two minutes long, it offers some more context of why people are hiring foreigners to drive sales in China’s massive, but very sick, real estate industry.

China’s flagging real estate is said to be affecting the whole of the nation’s economy.

But due to a lack of state transparency, there are few solid figures available, making it hard gauge how serious the issue actually is.

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Huge growth in China’s real estate has underpinned the Chinese economy in the past, but now with an oversupply, it’s actually becoming a liability. (Image; Steve Jurvetson/Flickr)

“When we interviewed a Chinese journalist about this, he told us he was under orders to never write anything that could hurt the property market,” Borenstein told news.com.au.

“I have been to many new cities and districts in the past five years. As far as I can see now, almost none have accomplished the initial ambitions. Some have stalled and are abandoned halfway through construction. Some are filling up, but clearly aren’t the luxurious international cities that they were advertised as. Some are bought up by investors and remain empty,” he said.

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